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Tze Lan Heung, the Purple Orchid

Red Circle Tea - Sat, 06/02/2012 - 21:03

Purple Orchid is one of the most famous of Dan Chong teas. To me it stood out this year as heads and shoulders above the dozens of Dan Chong Teas I tried, and that has a lot to do with its provinance and when it was picked. This Purple Orchid DC was picked before April 4th, before the Qing Ming festival honoring ancestors who have passed. The date is marked on every farmer’s almanac as the beginning of the picking season. But, in rare years, under special circumstances tea buds earlier, and if the weather is just right, and the picking and processing are just right, you wind up with an exceptional tea. This is such a tea. The dry leaves have notes of lichee and purple grapes. But this tea has great character.


Wet and warm the leaves, and a surprise is waiting. Notes of dry sweet almond are evoked, nutty and slightly spicy.

The aroma of the steeping tea fills the room.

The resulting cup is creamy, caramely and nutty, and reminds me of sitting in a restaurant and a waiter passes by with another guests desert of freshly caramelized flan.

This is a sumptuous tea, indulgent and relaxing.  Check out all the Dan Chong Oolongs here: http://redcircletea.com/redcircleteas/oolong/redcircleteas_oolong.html


Spring Crop Long Jing

Red Circle Tea - Wed, 05/30/2012 - 01:19

Long Jing – or Dragon’s Well. There really is a well at the top of Shi Feng peak in Long Jing Village outside of Hangzhou, China. Shi Feng (Lion’s Peak) is where the best Dragonwell comes from. The soil is sandier, it slows the uptake of minerals and results in a delicate taste and high fragrance indicative of the best teas this area has to offer.

So how do you judge good tea – how do you know what you’re looking at?  Well, when you evaluate Long Jing tea, first look at the dry leaves: They should be uniform, straight (not splayed) and the best are slightly yellow.



Have a look at a first steeping of these leaves.

And the liquid is a perfect light yellow green color and the consistency is like silk.

The classic flavor profile of this tea is sweet chestnuts and a gentle green bean taste with high notes of sweet grass and springtime on a mountain (I’m not sure that’s a flavor, or aroma, but I’ve smelled it standing in a tea field, so I’m going to go with it). Think chlorophyll. Green, a life-force taste of freshness. The flavor lingers gently for at least an hour in your mouth, and this tea gives more steepings than a normal green tea, it will steep 6 – 7 times in a gong fu clay pot and 5 – 6 times in a Gaiwan.

This year’s Pre-Qing Ming harvest festival tea is rock solid. This is the kind quality of Long Jing tea you have come to expect from Red Circle Tea – absolutely the best on the US market. Period. If by some horrible coincidence, you haven’t had the Long Jing I buy, may I humbly suggest you make this investment in the following: your tea drawer will thank you, your palate will thank you, your friends will thank you- should you be magnanimous enough to share – which you should be: great tea is meant to be shared.  But you will get the deepest thanks and return on investment from your tea education.  There is only one way to learn tea, through drinking it. Sure, you can talk to educators to learn about tea, ceremonies, specifics like soil content and elevation, but really learning to take tea into your culinary repertoire requires that you drink it.  And on occasion you must make an investment in that learning process.  You must drink good tea at some point to really appreciate tea.  If you drink tea, if you want to know tea, if you appreciate tea; you can understand this tea by tasting it. And I cordially invite you to do just that!

Pre-Qing Ming Dragonwell (Long Jing) is available for sale right now at:  http://redcircletea.com/redcircleteas/green/redcircleteas_green.html

Tea Review: Hampstead Tea Earl Grey

It's All About the Leaf - Mon, 05/07/2012 - 15:02

Category: Black Tea Company: Hampstead Tea (website) Ingredients: Fairtrade black tea, natural oil of bergamot Vendor Suggested Preparation: Use one sachet or level teaspoon of tea leaves per person. Brew with freshly boiled water and infuse for up to three minutes

This tea has possibly one of the most well-described packages I have ever seen. The single teabag package reads: “Hamstead Tea, London. Organic Fairtrade Earl Grey with aromatic bergamot. 1 staple-free teabag.”

Wow, that is quite a mouthful. I personally do not know anyone who buys teabags who is also concerned about saving some metal, but by the look of the string attached to the teabag, it makes me wonder why more teabag-producers do not follow this. It seems that Hamstead has implemented an easy way to do away with stables entirely. But how about the tea itself?!

The packaging recommends 3-5 minutes for steeping. The last earl grey that I tried oversteeped even with low steep times, so I boil some water and decide to go for the lower end here with 3 minutes of infusion. While I will admit that I am not big on bagged tea, this tea smells quite good, dry in the bag. A hint of orange provides a nice aroma. The steeping tea gives off a pleasant bergamot aroma. The first sip confirms that 3 minutes was a perfect amount of steeping, unless you prefer your tea stronger. For a bagged tea, this is pretty smooth, but it lacks a bit in the flavor profile. This is definitely a quality bagged tea. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would give it a 65/100.

You can purchase the Biodynamic, Organic and Fairtrade Earl Grey directly from the Hampstead Tea website.

Tea Review: Tea Forte Earl Grey

It's All About the Leaf - Mon, 04/30/2012 - 14:03

Category: Black Tea Company: Tea Forte (website) Ingredients: organic Indian Assam black tea, natural orange flavor, natural bergamot flavor, organic cornflower blossoms Vendor Suggested Preparation: Steep for 3-5 minutes, 208degF

From the moment at which I remove the pyramid infuser from its cardboard cover, I know there is something different about this Earl Grey. The smell of bergamot is not very strong. In fact, it is hardly present at all. Popping the infuser into my Tea Forte Cafe Cup, I fill the cup with just boiled water and let it steep for four minutes…a happy medium in the 3-5 minute range that was given by Tea Forte’s website!

The tea being now prepared, I take a whiff of the steeping, once again surprised by the smell. It is spicy with a bit of a fruity smell. Intrigued, I go on to try this cup of tea, sip by sip. My first sip is possibly the most astringent Earl Grey I have ever tasted! The bergamot is finally hinted at in the aftertaste, but the tea itself is so incredibly astringent that I wonder if I mistimed this tea. I ditch this cup and prepare to steep a new one.

This second cup I steep for only two and a half minutes. I know this is less than what was suggested, but I figure it is better to be safe. This second cup still smells exactly the first one, which worries me slightly, but I forge onward with this tasting! Still astringent, even after such a short steep time. But it is not as bad as the first cup was. The bergamot flavor is very fake and overdone, which is a bit of a turn-off, considering that this is supposed to be Earl Grey, not cologne.

If hunting for a cup of Earl Grey, this is not the tea to which to turn. I recommend trying a different brand. Sorry, Tea Forte, but this tea needs to go back to the mixing room. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would give it a 45/100.

You can purchase the Earl Grey directly from the Tea Forte website.

Joe Clare on Tea Packaging

Cha-Cha-Cha Adventures With Tea - Thu, 02/16/2012 - 22:49

Joe Clare, owner of Edmonton’s Massage Therapy Supply Outlet, doesn’t approve of the new tea stir stick single packaging. Here he is telling all about it.

Sip Tea With James Norwood Pratt & Support The American Botanical Council

The Meaning of Tea Blog - Sat, 10/22/2011 - 13:21

Join the instigator of America’s Tea Renaissance, James Norwood Pratt for a cup of  Golden Monkey tea at our meaningful tea-inspired gathering.

Author James Norwood Pratt has been educating others about the world of tea for thirty years. Our acknowledged Tea Sage, he is quite possibly the world’s most widely read authority on tea and tea lore. His most recent books are JNP’s Tea Dictionary and The Ultimate Tea Lover’s Teas.


The Meaning of Tea® invites guests to a meaningful tea-inspired gathering at Ramscale West Village Lofts in New York City on November 3rd, 2011, to benefit the nonprofit herbal research and education organization, the American Botanical Council. To thank our newsletter subscribers, we are offering a special 50% discount on tickets. Simply enter the code “tea” during the checkout process.

Golden Monkey black tea has been hand-selected from one of the most ancient tea-growing regions, the Yunnan Province of China. Named after its golden brown, fuzzy buds, this refreshing tea is rich and malty with a hint of fruit and a brisk aftertaste.


Try Golden Monkey or one of  The Meaning of Tea’s other teas during our Cool Weather Promotion: Save 25% on your total order when you purchase 2 teas or 35% when you purchase 3 teas. Offer good until 12/3/11   

tea: a living expression of eastern philosophy

Teanamu - Fri, 03/18/2011 - 10:30
Chachan Yiwei 茶禅一味 (tea zen one flavour) is the motto of teahouses like teanamu Chaya, now open Sat/Sun 12-6. At our new Chaya teahouse, we're using the Gongfu Cha ritual - it lends a Zen quality to our tea drinking. Fill the tea cup, empty the mind and getting out of your own way. Restoring the natural function of mindfulness, imagining swaying bamboo in a gentle breeze, tea-drinking for the soul! 'Let our tea cup be an extension of our hand': a touch of Zen mindfulness.

teahouse culture

Teanamu - Fri, 03/11/2011 - 10:22
Ancient legend of teaseller accused of being witch! She flew from her cell in dead of night tkg her tea urns with! The Tang dynasty capital was chockfull of teahouses, tea pavilions, tea societies. A wonderful era! The Song dynasty saw beautifully decorated tea houses with calligraphy hangings & bonsai plants. Singers & storytellers in Ming teahouses told gripping tales of the 108 heroes from the Water Margin. Some Qing teahouses reserved a table 4 a wise old sage to whom people wd bring grievances & disputes.

What's To Come in 2011

TeaAmigos - Sun, 01/16/2011 - 03:38

Well it's a new year, and that means it's time for change.  The TeaAmigos have come up on some CRAZY things in the past couple of months, so expect to see some changes very soon.  We want to thank all of our loyal fans for the past year of great tea and comments.  You've all been steeping well.  Within the next couple of weeks, you will see a revamp of our site, with more tea than ever, even a new partnership???  Stay tuned, yakwii.

Ali Shan Oolong Tea

Tea Escapade - Tue, 10/12/2010 - 14:21
Fall is here.  The leaves are changing, the sun comes up later, and the mornings are cooler. Although I drink hot tea year round, it is during this time of the year that a hot cup of tea is even more appealing.  As my grandmother used to say… “it warms my bones,” which is wonderful [...]

Ginger, Peach & Apricot Tea

Tea Escapade - Sat, 09/18/2010 - 04:47
As I sat down to write today’s tea review of Ginger, Peach & Apricot, I began to think about fear… Often fear keeps us from following our passion. I know I have been there and many others as well, spending time maintaining the status quo instead of venturing out to tackle something they really love. [...]

Visiting the Birthplace of Japanese Tea

Tea Escapade - Sun, 09/12/2010 - 05:35
The history of Japanese tea begins with the birth of Japanese culture over a thousand years ago in the country’s ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto. Though today the region produces only 3% of the tea in Japan, Ujicha, named after the city of Uji just south of Kyoto, is the most sought after tea [...]

Yoga & Tea Gathering

Tea Escapade - Wed, 09/08/2010 - 19:58
Release… Connect… Renew… Finally, the long-awaited Yoga & Tea Gathering at Grace Tree Studio! Combining the ancient disciplines of yoga and chado (the way of tea), we present a truly unique opportunity to explore their convergent paths. A gentle grounding yoga practice will release stress and tension, reconnecting you with your center and focusing your [...]

Not Too Steep

Tea Escapade - Tue, 08/24/2010 - 20:28
By Laura Yeh http://www.stlocarina.com We’ve all done it — poured hot water over our bag or leaves of Sencha or Gunpowder, then walked away to take care of a small chore, grab the newspaper or make a quick phone call. Twenty minutes later we walk back into the kitchen and see it — remember it [...]

Tea Stove – Tea Poem

Tea Escapade - Sat, 07/31/2010 - 19:09
Stone stove left behind by immortals, Lies crooked in the center of the stream. Tea finished, two boats drift on abreast, Tea smoke; wafting delicate fragrance. ~ Zhu Xi Subscribe to the comments for this post? Share this on del.icio.us Digg this! Post this on Diigo Post on Google Buzz Add this to Mister Wong [...]

BOngo Matcha Smoothie

Tea Escapade - Fri, 07/30/2010 - 20:43
It’s a fact that I love tea – I don’t think anyone would argue that point. However, I’m also a blender and love making fruit smoothies. So to foster my love for both, I began drinking Orange-Mango-Banana Vivanno Smoothies with a shot of matcha from Starbucks.  Being the blender that I am, I thought – [...]

“Blink Bonnie” Green Tea

Tea Escapade - Sat, 07/10/2010 - 20:49
No, I haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth, even though it has been awhile since my last tea review.  Yes, I have been drinking tea, unfortunately, I’ve been overwhelmed with work and getting my tea fix while on the go from the closest Starbucks. But when I sat down today, for a cuppa [...]

The Elephant In The Tearoom

The Art and Spirit of Tea - Tue, 05/11/2010 - 07:45

No, this isn’t about current politics.

For the last two years of posting articles to this blog I’ve been guided by the question, What is it about tea that inspires art?

In asking the question, there is an assumption that it is the spiritual aspects of the leaf that inspire. I’ve mentioned books of that theme; Spirit of Tea by Frank Hadley Murphy, Tea Here Now by Donna Fellman, Meaning of Tea by Scott Chamberlin Hoyt and Philip Cousineau, Cha Dao by Solala Towler and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Morteson and David Oliver Relin. But in almost every tea book, there is the element of spirit steeped into an ancient and profound history. They’re filled with beautiful stories and powerful images. I delight in the pretty side of tea. The elegance. The beauty. Since I write for and most often speak to children about tea, they fit well into my presentations.

But, last week I spoke to a horticultural society about tea, the plant. Questions about the health benefits came up. One man asked, “How many cups a day should we drink?” Issues with caffeine. Concerns about importing. “How do we know what’s true?”

That’s when I saw the elephant.

The pretty stories sell tea and books about tea. Knowledge of health benefits sell tea. Tea can sound so good that we can create an illusion that, the more the better. If one cuppa is good for us, does it follow that 8 per day is better? More consumers are asking questions about the real health benefits and quality control.

There’s no question about the importance of tea in the world. But, is there a problem with steering the public concept of tea to something innocent and benign? In doing so, do we erode the power of the ancient spirit of tea?

I’m reminded of the comic strip, Rose Is A Rose by Pat Brady and Don Wimmer. Rose is a gentle mother who has an inner motorcycle-riding, black leather wearing wild woman. They coexist. Her son, Pasquale, is guarded by a sweet angel who morphs into a titan if the situation requires. Pasquale needs both aspects of his angel. Rose needs her alter-ego, Vicky The Bike Rider to jump in with force.

I’ve come to think of the spirit of tea like this. The elegance and beauty and healing thrive on the power of those little leaves. In the last post to this blog, I cited the stories of two old Chinese men for whom a cup of tea was precious. Will making tea more innocent make it less precious? If we drink 8 cups a day, will each cup seem less important? In making it more convenient, do we make it seem less rare?

Where’s The Elephant?

Now, we’re a month away from Expo. There will probably be more than 5000 tea people gathering in Las Vegas to drink and talk about tea. But it’s also about selling more tea. More people drinking more tea is a good thing. Adding tea to more products is a good thing. Right? It’s in chewing gum and chocolate bars. I love it! There will be samples of hundreds of teas and amazing new concepts. When attendees enter the exhibition hall the will be almost lifted off the floor by the fragrance. Classes with experts in all aspects of tea will be filled with people who need to know the best and latest to build their businesses. And schmoozing. Networking. Discussing weather conditions in China and new production in Africa.

Within the convention center will be a blend of all things tea. Technical, whimsical, historic, authentic, playful, and scientific. If it were not all part of the blend, would tea be the inspiration that it is today; the muse of painters and poets, icon of novelists and filmmakers?

My imaginary elephant looks a bit like Disney’s Dumbo with his unusually big ears making him rare and lofty.



Old Men Of The Tea

The Art and Spirit of Tea - Tue, 04/27/2010 - 15:14

I like to read tea books. Don’t you? I’ll admit that they can be redundant. That’s OK. I’m still relatively new to TeaLand and in each new book is a sparkling nugget. I’m like a child who want’s to have Winnie the Pooh read again every night. There are the tea facts, tea stories, legends and history. The bigger picture seems to come into focus with repetition.

What I’m posting today are two stories from fiction of old men and their tea. Both characters are Chinese men. One story is from a newly released collection of essay’s, Cha Dao, by Solala Towler. The essays themselves are written from a Taoist perspective; a spiritual perspective. But Towler goes further and includes history, brewing, health benefits and types of tea. Then, the end of the collection offers the story, Tea Time.

The old man in this story rises early to greet the sun. He goes to his garden to collect dew for his first cup of tea.

   When he judged it ready, he took from a shelf a small bamboo canister of tea. it was Lung Jing, Dragon Well, the first of the season. It has cost him quite a lot of money  but he had such simple tastes in everything else that it was well worth it.

The short story takes us through the details his preparations - not quite boiling the water and drinking from an unglazed cup.

He sat there, slowly savoring his tea and watching the world wake up around him. he felt his own body and mind waking up along with it, as the tea did its gentle work. he treasured these first moments of the day, when it was just himself and the world around him, sharing his first cup of tea of the day.

Cha Dao, Published by Singing Dragon

Towler’s simple story beautifully illustrates what the entire collection of essays have tried to explain. Through the purposeful and meditative preparation of his tea,  the old Chinese man helps us understand the simplicity of the spirit of tea.

This story triggered a dusty memory of another old Chinese man and his tea.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

It is the protagonist’s wedding day. The young, impoverished farmer, Wang Lung has purchased a slave to become his wife and this is the day he will bring her home. In preparation, he prepares by using a precious amount of water to bathe. The only water he does not use in his tub is what he reserves to make a cup of tea for his father.

     He opened a glazed jar that stood upon a ledge of the stove and took from it a dozen or so of the curled dried leaves and sprinkled them upon the surface of the water. The old man’s eyes opened greedily and immediately he began to complain.

“Why are you wasteful? Tea is like eating silver.”

“It is the day,” replied Wang Lung with a short laugh. “Eat and be comforted.”

The old man grasped the bowl in his shriveled, knotty fingers, muttering, uttering little grunts. He watched the laves uncurl and spread upon the surface of the water, unable to bear drinking the precious stuff.”

“It will be cold,” said Wang Lung.

“True - true” said the old man in alarm, and he began to take great gulps of the hot tea. He passed into an animal satisfaction, like a child fixed upon its feeding.

The Good Earth, Published by Washington Square Press

I recently reread the book after many years, enjoying and appreciating, with a new perspective, the meaning of tea. The spirit of tea. The first time I read The Good Earth, I barely noticed the tea. It slipped by as an oddity. So much to-do about a few leaves. Such a minor part of the story.

We couldn’t say that this is a story about tea. But, in searching for stories of beauty and meaning where tea is a main character, it is exciting to realize that the story is contained in a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. And, that the same novel contributed to the author being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1938.

I’m writing this while enjoying a cup of Zhen Qu, a gift from a good tea friend. There are more of us in the US now who know the teas, the traditions and the potential for a more involved life in tea.

How many people in the US at that time noticed the tea?  To a very poor man, drinking tea is like eating silver. How was that understood?

Books like Solala Towler’s Cha Dao and Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, help us realize the potential for a greater spiritual relationship with our tea. It helps create a framework for appreciating what Pearl Buck tried to show decades ago as well as what we have an even greater opportunity to enjoy now. The enduring gift of tea.


Tea Here Now

The Art and Spirit of Tea - Mon, 04/05/2010 - 15:55

I like to write about tea books and support tea authors and teachers. This one is a particular favorite.

Tea Here Now, by Donna Fellman & Lhasha Tizer is one of the first tea books I read cover to cover. My desk copy is now rather worn. If you pick it up, it will fall open to page 9 - to a tea story that is almost always one I want to share. This is a story shared from another book, Creating True Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh. Not a tea book, it is remarkable to find such an incredible bit of tea lore in other genres.

This particular story is one of the most beautiful images I’ve heard in the art of making tea.

As it goes:

The monk, Thich Nhat Hahn in exile from his native country, tells a story of how the Vietnamese people row small boats on a lotus pond just before sunset, filling the open flowers with tea. The flowers close during the night, scenting the tea. The tea drinkers return the next morning with water, small stoves and teacups to collect the tea as the flowers open and prepare it on their boats, still relaxing peacefully on the water.

The authors of Tea Here Now add commentary on the story:

“The poignancy of the beautiful picture of the lotus pond and its tea drinkers lies in the wanting it stirs in our hearts. We all desire to have the time for living. Drinking tea can teach us to take the time to live, to breathe, to share with others, and to stop and sit still long enough to feel our hearts and our aliveness.”

But That’s a Hard Sell

But this whole spirit-of-tea thing can be a bit off-putting to some. Even with stress and anxiety as contributing factors to many serious illnesses, we (the collective we) still have trouble embracing something as simple as relaxing with a cup of tea intrinsically therapeutic. We want more validation from medical science. But even with that validation, we’re still shaking off an image that tea is fru-fru and mild-mannered.

How is it that a story as enticing as people rowing boats out onto a pond to brew tea that has spend the night wrapped in a living lotus flower hasn’t made the front page on a single major newspaper? Oprah interviewed Thich Nhat Hanh, but I don’t see her actively promoting the health and peacefulness of a tea lifestyle.

Back down to our real daily life - we don’t have lotus ponds. And as romantic and cleansing as these images may be for us intellectually, the problem is that they are so far from our experience of daily life, they are inaccessible.

We need more visual images of a western tea lifestyle. We need more tea experiences. And we need more tea story tellers.

“Relax and Rejuvenate with a Tea Lifestyle. Rituals, Remedies and Meditations”

The above quote is from the cover of Tea Here Now. What has become the most important part of that phrase to me is “Tea Lifestyle”. That phrase is a kind of turning point between people who drink tea as a beverage and those who make the decision to delve deeper into the culture of the leaf. Almost all tea drinkers resonate with the “relax and rejuvenate” part. But the “rituals, remedies and meditations” are a path that cuts deeper into the tea field. What I most admire about Tea Here Now is the gentle way it bridges that gap with chapters as basic as how to gradually switch from coffee to tea. Just a few pages separate that section from “Steps For Bringing The Sacred Into Every Day Life”.

Somewhere in there are our stories.

Most of the people I know are still at the beverage stage.

Donna Fellman and Lhasha Tizer, the authors of this compact little pocketbook have create a valuable curriculum for everyone of a mind to teach tea. With the flip of a few pages, we are reminded that learning curve for the tea lifestyle is very broad. There is actually so much to know about tea that it can be intimidating. But this book takes a gentle and non-judgmental tone that I’ve come to trust for new the new-comers. It does so by weaving the many virtues of tea together rather than focusing full attention on one aspect.

From how-to-brew to health under the umbrella of awakening your spirit.

The spirit of tea.

The book closes with, “A Toast To Tea and Life” - and another of my favorite lines:

“The adaptable, all-occasion spirit of tea sparks a renewal of playfulness and possibility.” And a photo of the authors, Donna Fellman and Lhasha Tizer

With playfulness and possibility!


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